More Than Assholes

By Michael Byrne

I'm pretty sure I've given above-average effort in the online comforting of others. That's probably a bold, overly-hopeful claim, but (if true) this almost certainly has more to do with with where I choose to participate online--a couple of private messageboards populated mostly by people I consider friends, as well as a couple of condition-specific health messageboards--than me being an above-average dude. Am I good at helping internet people out with their woes? Probably not, but it turns out there's a new indexing method that could sort that out with some accuracy. 

Said method is described in a paper posted recently to the arVix pre-print server, courtesy of University of Iowa computer scientist Kang Zhao et al. Their research looks at 500,000 different posts on online health community forums--"80-percent of adult Internet users in the U.S. use Internet for health-related purposes," according to the paper--from 50,000 different threaded discussions over a 10 year period. The goal was to identify where in all of that noise users are successfully making other users feel better. Why does that seem so novel?

Read the rest over at Motherboard.

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